Great Horned Owls and Horned Larks – Birds with Ear Tufts

Female Horned LarkFemale Horned Lark

Great Horned Owls and Horned Larks are species of birds that have ear tufts that I photograph regularly here in Utah. The female Horned Larks “horns” are not usually visible. This female was photographed near the Stansbury Mountains in Tooele County, Utah.

Male Horned LarkMale Horned Lark

The “horns” of male Horned Larks are though and because the “horns” are a dark color they stand out more. This male was photographed near the Stansbury Mountains in Tooele County, Utah on a different day than the female above.

Female Great Horned OwlFemale Great Horned Owl

The ear tufts of male and female Great Horned Owls are clearly visible and the size of the owls is how to determine gender. This female is larger than male Great Horned Owls. She was photographed on Antelope Island State Park in Davis County, Utah as she rested in a Tamarisk.

Male Great Horned OwlMale Great Horned Owl

This male was photographed on Antelope Island State Park in Davis County, Utah resting in the same Tamarisk on a different day than the female was photographed. The Tamarisk are an invasive species and have since been chopped down, I think it is a shame that the Tamarisks were not girdled which would have killed them but still left the dead Tamarisk for Owls and other birds of prey to use as perches.

It’s spring, isn’t it? How come there is snow on the ground this morning??? Springtime in Utah is fickle I tell you!


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Wonderful shots, Mia. I’ve painted Great Horns several times…all that barring is a nightmare. I didn’t realize that Tamarisks were invasive. In our area, vines like Bittersweet, Honeysuckle and Porcelainberry are smothering and strangling our trees. It’s kind of nightmarish, seems completely out of control…too late to stop or reverse?

  2. My thanks to everyone for commenting on this post, you are all very kind!

  3. I love Horned Larks, and all owls-both of which I do not get to see. Thanks for sharing these great images, Mia.

  4. Great idea to group them together!

  5. Merrill Ann Gonzales

    What gorgeous owls. Wonderful shots of all the birds… but the best shots of Great Horned Owls I’ve ever seen. Many thanks.

  6. Beautiful photography! I love the female horned owl, those eyes!

  7. Great post Mia. Why do you think the Horned Lark has ear tufts? Interesting discussion for certain. As always wonderful images. And in regards to the weather, its relatively chilly here as well, mid 70’s….;)

    • Bryce, I don’t really think Horned Larks have ear tufts but they sure mimic those of the Great Horned Owls. I think the Larks “horns are fantastic!

  8. Fantastic post, Mia! Your exquisitely detailed photographs are stellar, as usual. Simply beautiful birds with ear tufts.

  9. wath a lovely place for the owl, surrounded by the vegetation but not hide, good situation and pictures for you,
    well played mia ☺

  10. Beautiful shots, Mia. Lovely Tamarisk leaves contribute a lot to the owls shots – it’s a pity they are invasive!

  11. Your photos are incredible..These birds are such a delight..I don’t think i have ever seen any around here. We are expecting snow today, too.. what happened to

  12. Excellent photographs, Mia! The female Great Horned Owl does not look impressed by you taking her picture!

  13. Couldn’t resist a post on ear tufts! I was just discussing ear tufts at an earth day celebration this week as I was working with Mitzi, the barred owl. I was discussing how most species of owls don’t have them and their evolutionary significance, as well as the evolutionary hypotheses regarding feathers. I had a mostly adult crowd at the time, so it was nice to be able to do into some deeper science while they oohed and ahhed as much as the kids.

    Great photos!

  14. FYI, The only bird I have ever held in my hand.. a young Great Horned Owl ( I was volunteering at a rehab center) and a highlight of my life. Great shots Mia.. but again I think one of your strenghs is capturing the tone to match the setting. Excellent.

  15. I love that last shot and the barring on their chests is amazing. We have snow and nasty cold again this morning, I don’t remember it being this cold most of the winter – really! I see 50s for the weekend if the forecast holds (it rarely does) so hopefully the boat will get in the water for some slow zen time for me too!

  16. Outstanding images, Mia! I especially love the last one/ Great depth!

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